Sunday, December 17, 2006

BUS STORY # 15 (Ch-ch-ch-changes)

Gino is gone but not forgotten. He’s driving the Juan Tabo bus now. The switch was not entirely his idea. The drivers tell me there is a policy requiring drivers to change routes every four months. Drivers can bid for certain routes, and those bids are based on seniority. Gino would have had to split up his shift if he wanted to stay on the Lomas run, so he went looking for a route with an early-starting eight-hour shift and put in his transfer request. The morning ride in is not the same.

The morning schedule is not the same, either. Gino has been replaced by two different drivers who apparently have two different watches. "6:28 a.m." has become anywhere between 6:20 a.m. and 6:35 a.m., depending on who’s driving. I’ve missed a couple of buses even though I always arrive at my stop early. We riders laugh at the driver who comes early: he leaves the electronic date and time display at the front of the bus turned off. The driver who comes late isn’t worried about it.

Even the Rapid Ride has stuttered a bit. A couple of times going home, I got off the Yale bus, walked to the station in front of the Frontier, and saw the overhead message, "Next bus in 19 minutes." Those lapses cost me another 30 minutes making the Lomas transfer. My 70-minute ride home mushroomed to an hour-and-a-half. Thank God for the New Yorker and my wife’s forbearance.

Something has happened to two of "the guys" on the Yale 7:15 a.m. At first, I thought it might be vacation, but some time has gone by now, and it looks like the salon has disbanded. The one guy still riding looks forlorn. One morning, I saw him struggling to just stay awake. I miss his smile and his laughter. I miss this local access to the news and the conventional wisdoms that come with it. I miss hearing tolerant disagreement.

The guy in the white gloves has switched to black gloves. Is it a seasonal change? Have they quit making this style glove in white? Did he change styles and the new style doesn’t come in white? Why the change? Inquiring minds want to know!

The ServiceMaster young woman is gone, too. Her disappearance came at the end of a fascinating transformation, as if she’d emerged from a cocoon and flown away. One morning, a cell phone appeared on her belt. Another morning, her hair was down, and I noticed her shirt didn’t seem as starched as I’d remembered it. Yet another morning, her glossy black hair had taken on a golden-brown hue. The last time I remember seeing her was after we got off at our spot and I saw her walking ahead of me holding a cigarette. I remember this for two reasons: 1) she was holding the cigarette in her left hand in the awkward way of a new and self-conscious smoker; 2) I had the fleeting thought "My little girl is growing norteamericana." I wish I had noted the ring finger on her left hand before she disappeared.

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